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BEE GEES:  LIVE BY REQUEST

Review by Michael Jacobson

Director:  Lawrence Jordan
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1. DTS 5.1, Dolby Stereo
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  Image Entertainment
Features:  TV Trailer
Length:  90 Minutes
Release Date:  January 2, 2002

Film ***

The Bee Gees have been around for a good 35 years now, and though their career has seen its share of peaks and valleys, the brothers Gibb (Barry, Robin, and Maurice) have always enjoyed a loyal worldwide following.  2001 seemed to be a renaissance year for the band, with the release of their first new studio album in four years, This is Where I Came In, plus an excellent double disc retrospective called The Record, which has pretty much stayed in my CD player since it came out.  

They also were featured guests on A&E's Live by Request program, an intimate concert appearance now available on DVD through Image Entertainment.  The brothers take to the stage, but fans in the audience and watching the live broadcast at home were sending out their requests to the band, making for an evening of music guided by the people who really loved the music.

It may seem surprising to many, therefore, that the selections from Saturday Night Fever are extremely limited.  Those picking up this disc thinking they're going to hear “Staying Alive”, “Night Fever”, “More Than a Woman” are going to be disappointed…none of those made the cut.  Gone also are many other hits from their disco era success…you won't catch “Tragedy” or “Love You Inside Out” here, either.

This DVD, therefore, is not for the casual Bee Gees fans, but for the dedicated ones…those that remember their terrific and fruitful beginnings in the 1960s will appreciate the inclusion of such classics as “Massachusetts”, “I Started a Joke”, “I've Gotta Get a Message to You”, “To Love Somebody” (you'll get a kick out of who phoned in the request for that tune, by the way), plus a terrific medley (of sorts) that includes pieces of “New York Mining Disaster”, “Holiday”, “Woman in Love”, “Guilty”, and my personal favorite, “Run to Me”.  I say ‘of sorts' because there are gaps between each entry in the medley.

Those who have picked up the latest CD will enjoy some good selections from it as well, including the title track, “She Keeps on Coming”, the lovely “Sacred Trust” and Maurice's showcase, “Man in the Middle”.  Oh, and I don't mean to make it sound like the band completely turns its back on their top selling soundtrack album, either…for those who can't get enough of the disco thing, there are terrific renditions of “Jive Talkin'”, “How Deep is Your Love”, and the show stopping “You Should be Dancing”. 

The band doesn't put on an overly spectacular show, given the intimate nature of the broadcast, but they sound just as good as ever, and their sense of humor shines through quite a bit.  When Barry wonders aloud how he's going to pull off “Woman in Love”, Maurice quips that he knows he has the wardrobe for it.

The main problem with the presentation is that there are gaps between songs that are too numerous and too long.  The host spends too much time yakking, and though the audience participation aspect was a good idea, it needed to be sped up from time to time.  Fans wanting music will have to exercise patience from time to time.

The One Night Only concert (also available on DVD from Image) remains the best choice for live Bee Gees in your home, but for fans who appreciate the older and the newer tracks from the brothers Gibb, Live By Request is a decent collection of songs that span the entire breadth of the Bee Gees career.

Video ***1/2

Though shot on video for television, this is a perfectly good digital rendering, with sharper images and better coloring than most video presentations.  Bleeding is extremely minimal to non-existent, and there is no grain nor any evidence of compression to mar the image quality.  Lighting extremes render quite well, also.  High marks!

Audio ***1/2

The Dolby Digital 5.1 track (DTS also included) is a good mix, with a lively bit of dynamic range and plenty of bass for the .1 channel to handle.  Most of the rear stage is used for crowd response and a bit of reverb, which opens up the live experience and makes it seem more like being at a concert.  Very well done.

Features *

Only a 4 minute television trailer.

Summary:

Bee Gees:  Live by Request is a disc to separate the truly devoted Bee Gees fan from the casual disco-era one.  For those who love the old and the new music from the band as much as the stuff from their chart topping heydays in the middle, this concert represents a good and satisfying mix of tunes from all eras.  If that appeals to you, then with this DVD, you should be dancing.  Yeah.